Big Oil Sponsors on display at Canada’s most iconic museum

350 Canada
4 min readJul 12, 2017

As the Canadian Museum of History prepares for its busiest season ever, community members held an alternative exhibit to put the institution’s dirty sponsor on display. A blog post by Atiya Jaffar.

Community members took advantage of a busy Saturday morning at the Museum of History to put the institution’s dirty sponsor on display. Photo Credit: Gab D’Astous

This summer, the Canadian Museum of History — one of the most popular cultural institutions in the country — is expected to draw record numbers of visitors. A big factor drawing in these large crowds is the freshly minted “Canada History Hall” which strives to offer an honest and uncensored view into the country’s past. As a recent piece in the New York Times has pointed out, the Museum has come a long way, departing from its Harper-era colonizer-centric focus on the military and monarchy. While this evolution is certainly cause for celebration, the Museum also has a dirty skeleton stowed away in its closet.

A number of the exhibits in the Museum, including this latest Canadian History Hall centerpiece, are in fact funded by the most dangerous Big Oil lobby group in the country: the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). By lobbying on behalf of the world’s most polluting oil and gas companies, CAPP embodies the antithesis of the values that the Museum of History aims to uphold.

Photo Credit: Gab D’Astous

To highlight this contradiction, community members held space inside the Museum on Saturday July 8th to put CAPP and its dirty history on display. They held this alternative exhibit in the main foyer of the Museum for about 20 minutes until the management at the museum asked them to leave. You can watch live coverage from this action here.

Here are some of the facts these demonstrators brought to light.

CAPP’s fingerprints are all over climate disasters.

For years, CAPP has spent millions of dollars on misleading the public on climate change on TV, print and online advertising — even in our schools. And to take it further, CAPP has viciously opposed legislative action on climate change at provincial and federal levels. This leaves the lobby group’s fingerprints all over climate disasters like last Spring’s wildfires in Fort McMurray.

Photo Credit: Gab D’Astous

More recently, in early May, climate disaster struck when heavy rains flooded the National Capital Region — the area surrounding the Museum of History.

We can expect more of the same if Big Oil is given the reigns to rewrite Canada’s climate policies.

CAPP wants to expand the tar sands at all costs

Scientists have been clear that in order to stop the deadliest impacts of climate change, we must keep the majority of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground. Yet, by advocating for the expansion of the tar sands and massive pipelines, like Kinder Morgan and Keystone XL, CAPP’s mission is to make sure that Canada does the exact opposite.

Photo Credit: Gab D’Astous

CAPP pushes an agenda that violates Indigenous rights.

CAPP has pushed forward energy projects responsible for some of the most egregious violations against Indigenous peoples in recent history.

Indigenous communities living by the heart of the Alberta tar sands have spent decades resisting the desecration of their territories. Some of these communities have gone to court over the gross treaty violations from tar sands expansion. As well, a number of these communities have seen a rise in cancer and other serious diseases as a result of toxic pollutants from the tar sands.

Tar sands pipelines threaten Indigenous territories across the continent and are considered by many to be modern day forms of colonization through dispossession of land.

Yet despite these many violations, politicians continue fall into the hands of lobby groups like CAPP and approving these projects.

CAPP stands on the wrong side of history — the museum doesn’t have to.

The main point that the demonstrators were trying to hammer home this weekend is that CAPP has staked its claim on the wrong side of history — but the Museum of History’s CEO Mark O’Neill can choose the right side by cutting the institution’s ties to this dirty sponsor.

It’s clear why a sponsorship agreement with the Museum is valuable for CAPP. For one thing, it allows them to plaster their logo all over Museum exhibits — buying recognition and respect for their brand. CAPP lobbyists also get access to VIP events at the Museum of History with key political leaders in the National Capital Region.

Sponsoring respected institutions to gain brand recognition and the chance to rub shoulders with politicians is a trick that Big Oil has pulled right from Big Tobacco’s hand book. These were exactly the tactics that cigarette companies used to buy social acceptability — until, thanks to social movements, these companies’ access to cultural sponsorships was deemed unacceptable.

The good news is, as Museum CEO Mark O’Neill confirmed at a recent AGM, that CAPP and the Museum of History have reached the final year in their sponsorship agreement.

What remains now is a commitment from O’Neill that the Museum of History will not re-enter negotiations with CAPP for additional sponsorships. It’s time to make sure that the Museum stands on the right side of history. Sign the petition calling on the Museum of History to cut ties to CAPP.



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